Football is one of the great phenomena of humanity: According to data from the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), 265 million people play football. Approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide witnessed a thrilling final between Argentina and France in the last World Cup. This sport is such a significant phenomenon that FIFA currently has more affiliated federations (211 countries) than the United Nations (193 member countries).
The spectacle of Argentine football explains where we come from and where we are going. Soccer reinforces the intensity, passion and emotion as being part of Argentine culture and is more than a sport. Scaloni’s national team speaks to us about individual merit, collective solidarity, competition, performance, qualification, local loyalties and allegiances, and existential contradictions; all attributes of modern life. As a contact sport and a competitive team sport, football has become, according to people, “the most serious battle in the world”, condensing and dramatizing, in a realistic illusion, the values of modern industrial societies.
Football in Argentina is a serious matter. There are fans and those who, despite not being interested, always have it present as a way of life due to the fervent public declaration of belonging and loyalty to the nation. Authors such as Eduardo Archetti analyze in depth how the idea of the national and masculinities is expressed in Argentina through moving bodies, sports, and artistic performances. Therefore, Football has functioned, since very early times in Argentina, as a strong core of national representation. The 1986 World Cup, along with a list of football “heroes” (such as Diego Armando Maradona), created an epic narrative where football played a significant role in the “invention of an Argentine nation”.
Football and business share a fundamental logic that drives them: the pursuit of victory and success. We find in football the same organizational logic as in industrial work: disciplined, organized, and collective, where each man has a reason for being.
Both environments are always intertwined, and much is stipulated in this relationship as a phenomenon that generates habits, values, and feelings that shape the culture itself and create numerous identities. A part of identity is forged through players like Lionel Messi, Nicolas Otamendi, and Emiliano Martinez, who represent social groups with beliefs and desires that they manage to transmit through their personality, desire, and passion to give everything for the team’s colors.
Undeniably, Messi personifies excellence and perfection on the field. In addition to his outstanding technical ability, Messi is also admired for his work ethic and dedication to the sport. Despite the unfortunate outcome in the 2018 World Cup and having been subjected to numerous criticisms throughout his career, Messi has demonstrated an unwavering determination to improve and a great ability to inspire his teammates, leading them to the coveted victory in the World Cup. In football, teams strive to win matches and championships, while in business, companies aim to maximize profits. From the Scaloni era onwards, the emphasis has been on teamwork and the goal of not giving up and continuing to strive for victory despite failures.
One of the central characteristics of football practice among the popular sectors was the importance of territorial identity. Teamwork plays a crucial role both in a company and in a football team. In both cases, the need for effective collaboration and harmonious coordination among members is recognized to achieve established objectives.
Moeller and Deci’s (2009) studies reveal that, although there are some cultural differences in the perception of competition ethics, there are also common ethical principles that apply to both sports and business (teamwork, effective leadership, discipline, responsibility, ethics, and resilience). These ethical values promote a culture of collaboration, growth, and success, both in the world of sports and in the business environment. Thus, simply observing what happens around us, what happens in the span of 90 minutes becomes an aspect of great importance, perhaps the most relevant.
The World Cup held last year in Doha, Qatar was an event that was not only cultural but also economic and media-related. The Argentine team fought to earn a place on the field and be accepted by the people based on their sporting quality. They defeated France on penalties last November 18, 2022. However, it was also colonized by profit-seeking entities who don the jersey and go out to play in pursuit of seduction for power and glory. In this framework of modern society, football has transformed into a social phenomenon in which fans are “customers” who consume the products created by clubs and players.
Throughout history, professional football has generated millions of profits for the teams themselves as well as for other sectors and branches of the economy, both directly and indirectly. A special report by the CIES Football Observatory revealed that the number of Argentinian expatriates also reached a new record with 905. This represents various income sources for the football player, agent, and club selling the player’s rights, as well as the sending and receiving countries through taxes.
On the international stage, these attractive figures have attracted the attention of Asian federations who, with the intention of diversifying their businesses, have allocated considerable sums of money to acquire the champion.
That’s why friendly matches were held within the framework of a large project by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) that seeks to enhance and exploit the brand to the fullest, especially after winning the World Cup in Qatar 2022. The total amount for the two friendly matches was 6.5 million dollars.
There are those who express their repudiation of profit-seeking organizations, as it exposes how the mafia destroys football to carry out their businesses. “The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime” by Montague (2016) provides an in-depth exploration of the relationship between these two.
Spectators, footballers, clubs, and, of course, sponsors are all part of the football spectacle, making it fertile ground for the continuous collision of interests, rights, and obligations from different sectors in search of power. However, whenever there are exorbitant profits, it leads to the saturation of fans with the exhibitionism of football and drives consumerism to its highest levels.
Profiting from football can pose certain dangers and challenges. For instance, it can lead to excessive commercialization of the sport, resulting in the saturation of advertising, rising ticket prices, and the commodification of club identities. These factors can alienate traditional fans and create a perception that football is becoming more of an industry than a sport.
However, it is also important to note that profit in football can have positive consequences, such as increased investments in infrastructure, the development of youth talent programs, and the generation of employment in the sports industry. Ultimately, striking a balance between profit and sporting values is crucial to ensure sustainable and fair play.
As of now, Argentina has 43 commercial agreements, and to top it off, the value to be received for the friendly matches played this month during the Asian tour has increased to a total of 6.5 million dollars.
The current contracts of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) come from New Eastern entities (such as the Chinese snacks company Pan Pan Foods and Amul from India represents a multimillion-dollar profit for Scaloni’s team). Currently, the Argentine national team is one of the most valuable in the world.
Moller, V., & Deci, E. L. (2009). The ethics of competition: A cross-cultural investigation of the ethics of competition in sport and business. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(1), 25-41.
Montague, J. (2016). The fix: Soccer and organized crime. Signal Books.
“This report was prepared with support from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), whose mission is to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. The report was researched, prepared, and published exclusively by the IVE. These views do not necessarily reflect those of CIPE.”